“I am 12 years old and I attend seventh grade at a school in Madrid.”
Our interlocutor seems shy but she is not. Her curiosity gets the best of her and she soon takes control of the conversation. She tells us interesting things about her school, her class, her teacher and her friends. It is her daily routine and the basis of her future. And she certainly knows what she is talking about, having attended classes for more than eight years. Quite a professional!
We go through some digital exercises and chat about education for two and a half hours. And we would have gone on for much longer!
Our conversation left us with a few conclusions, a lot of new ideas and a certainty:
we must engage more students in the educational debate that is taking place worldwide.
Every week, more and more often, we share information and views on education to people around the world: professionals who, in most cases, we do not know personally, but who share our interests and passions. Professionals from Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Mexico and other Latin American countries. Professionals in the U.S. and Canada, the UK, Finland, Germany and other European countries. And this is spreading to other continents, even if to a lesser extent: India, Australia, Egypt, and Israel…
Social networks are primarily responsible for this increased activity. Do you know that the 10 groups on LinkedIn Education in which we participate have doubled their number of participants during 2012? Groups are being created in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Asia. Groups in which people share and debate on global education as never before. And this growing conversation takes place on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. And also on a growing number of specialized blogs. It is fascinating to comment on a story in real time with people you do not know and who are in places as diverse as the U.S. and Australia. No doubt this is very positive and helps us better understand the world we live in and where education is going to; what is certain is that education is immersed in a historic moment of great change.
However, in this whole discussion we miss something essential: the students’ opinions. Not that they do not exist, but their share in this debate or discussion is still small.
Most educational professionals who discuss this subject today have been trained in a model in which the student is at one end of the knowledge transmission chain. No doubt this is reflected in the lack of initiatives aimed at enhancing student participation in the discussion that is taking place.
“Have your teachers ever wondered what you think about your education?”
Our new friend of 12 years replies quickly: “Never” and stays quiet. Not that the answer surprises us, it was one of the last questions in our long conversation and that point was a logical conclusion.
Students know about education in their own way, but they know. Listening to them not only will give us valuable information that will allow us to correct, improve and design new procedures and strategies, but also will engage students in the educational process, making them more aware and responsible. They will go from being only receivers to being active players and participating in the conversation and, above all, to being creators. Obviously, with this new role, we will all win.
The integration of social media in the classroom, which will encourage conversation and exchange of opinions, is a strategy that can help give students a voice and encourage student participation in this debate. But there are many other strategies: it is a matter of imagination, will, training, etc.
Sharing the views of the students that are being educated now will undoubtedly help us all to design new ways to educate better citizens in the future.
On our side, in Elesapiens, we will soon share through our blog the conclusions of this talk with our new 12 year-old friend, and our future talks scheduled for this New Year (2013). We hope this initiative will be useful to all of us.